2005 Year in Review

Brianna Ocheltree, 6, from Skagit Valley waves two flags in the air during the Armed Forces day parade in Bremerton. - Jesse Beals file photo
Brianna Ocheltree, 6, from Skagit Valley waves two flags in the air during the Armed Forces day parade in Bremerton.
— image credit: Jesse Beals file photo

With each new season came Bremerton’s share of notable people doing noteworthy things. New construction projects dotted the city. The school district passed a bond that will fund additions to the high school and Mountain View Middle School. The city council wrangled with its share of topics including a heated debate on whether to merge two housing authorities. Police Chief Rob Forbes retired and incumbents prevailed in the this year’s election. The Patriot has squeezed 2005 into a nutshell for one last look back.

Winter brings new ships, diversity

In January the USS John C. Stennis arrived at Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton. Families and well-wishers eagerly awaited the sailors on board.

“We don’t feel any of the chill with the very warm reception we’ve received,” said Capt. David Buss, commanding officer of the Stennis. “Bremerton is our homeport.”

The arrival of the Stennis created a significant amount of work for not only the shipyard itself, but the private contractors in the shipyard as well, said Capt. Clarke Orzalli, who then served as commander of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

In February, Bremerton City Councilwoman Dianne Robinson brought forth “The SInclair Park Project,” a thumbnail sketch of the contributions made by African-Americans during World War II.

“We don’t recognize blacks here and that they have played a major role in Bremerton,” Robinson said. “Our history is important.”

The Black Historical Society of Kitsap County got started around 1982 and Robinson said she believes it was one of the first organizations to begin recognizing Black History Month.

“We did a little pamphlet about 100 years of history untold,” she said. “Now we have a CD.”

Even though blacks had lived in the Bremerton area before John Bremer arrived and decided to make Bremerton a city, a large number of blacks moved to the city during World War II to work in the shipyard, she said. The Sinclair Project was built in response to the housing needs for the influx of workers into the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at the height of World War II. The CD was shown at the Norm Dicks Government Center later that month.

The idea of 30-minute ferry service from Bremerton to Seattle got closer to reality when Pacific International Engineering tested a prototype vessel. The biggest obstacle in getting the service is preserving the Rich Passage shoreline.

The M/V Spirit, a 72-foot catamaran has a hull designed to minimize wakes at high speeds. It simulated a weekly ferry run, making eight round-trips between Seattle and Bremerton Monday through Friday. The trials were part of the Fast Ferry Research Project that was initiated in June 2004, designed to investigate the feasibility of adding passenger only fast ferry service between Seattle and Bremerton. The project is being funded under federal grant program administered by the Federal Transportation Administration and is being conducted under the direction of PI Engineering of Edmonds.

The Bremerton Police Department filled three positions and increased its diversity with officers Craig Anthony, Harold Whatley and Jeffrey Inklebarger.

“We need to mirror the very community we provide services to,” said Bremerton Police Chief Robert Forbes, who retired in September.

The hirings of Anthony and Whatley, who are both African-American, represent a step in the right direction, Forbes said.

“We need to continue to make progress in the police department,” he said.

All three officers also bring varying degrees of experience to the department, he said.

Anthony came from the Suquamish Tribal police force, Whatley came from the Everett Police Department and Inklebarger came from the King County Sheriff’s Office.

The possibility of adding a crematorium to Navy Yard City ended with a screeching halt when County Commissioners reversed a decision by the Hearing Examiner. The proposed crematorium was to be located at the corner of G Street and Charlotte Avenue and would be operated by the Kass Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island. The dispute began August 2004 when neighbors learned of the project.

Among the issues were the hearing examiner’s determination that the neighbors and school district failed to appeal the building permit in a timely manner.

“We are obviously pleased that the Commissioners ruled the way they did,” said Roger Lubovich, Bremerton city attorney.

The Kasses later filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court seeking to overturn the decision.

Spring brings in the winds of change

New ideas and changes to the way Bremerton does business seemed to permeate the spring months. An old idea to merge the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA) and Bremerton Housing Authority (BHA) was brought to the table again. The debate, study and eventual vote took several months to conclude.

“It’s been about 20 to 30 years since this idea has been looked at, and I think it’s time to look at it again to see if we can be more efficient,” Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman said. He would later appoint a Blue Ribbon Committee to make recommendations to the council.

Proponents of the merger, which in November failed 5-4, said it would allow a more regional approach to housing and move along the seemingly stalled Westpark redevelopment. Those against the merger claimed BHA would lose its contract administration division.

The organization’s contract administration division employs 50 personnel and brings in about $2 million in net profits to the city from the administration of federal housing programs in other cities, counties and states including Hawaii and Nebraska.

Kitsap Credit Union began work on its new headquarters by demolishing Bernie’s in March and preparing to break ground, which it did later this year. The new building, expected to be operating by July 2006, will feature 48,000 square feet of office space with a credit union branch at street level, he said. The credit union plans to lease 16,000 square feet of the office space to other businesses.

Across town a much different project broke ground this past spring. Benedict House, a homeless men’s shelter, will be located at the corner of Rodgers Street and Cambrian Avenue.

“I think the rain is appropriate because it reminds us of one of the most important needs in our community,” said Bremerton City Council President Daren Nygren. “It’s time to put the controversy over the Benedict House behind us.”

The Benedict House will provide a permanent facility to house homeless men and will help men better themselves through the services it will provide, she said. In November it began operating out of a temporary location until the facility is complete in early 2006.

Bremerton School District voters initiated a change when they passed a $30.6 million bond package in May. “The voters are saying ‘We like what we’re seeing in the revitalization, please keep moving forward,’” said Bette Hyde. superintendent for Bremerton Schools.

The bond money will reshape the district into a 6-8 grade middle school and a 9-12 grade high school configuration. An separate-standing addition to Mountain View Middle School will cost about $15.1 million. Construction is expected to start next May. A new gym will be added to the current Mountain View Middle School for about $2.8 million. Bremerton High School will gain about 38,000 square feet and about 400 (freshmen) students. at an estimated cost of $10.2 million.

The Bremerton Fire Department reaped the rewards as it moved into a new Fire Station No. 1 on Park Avenue. The $3.1 million fire station was financed by a public safety bond measure. It is about 3,000 square feet larger than the current station, but is state-of-the-art. The building offers classroom space and an apparatus bay large enough to house modern-day trucks and more parking.

The Bremerton art community got a glimpse of the world famous Bremerton native Jack Lenor Larsen who created mohair tapestries for the city council chambers at the Norm Dicks Government Center.

“Something more organic was called for,” he said explaining why he had scoffed at the suggestion three years ago that he make the curtains blue velvet. He called that idea “perfectly dreadful.” He went with a more translucently hand-spun, hand-woven mohair to let the light through them. He chose a more cheerful color palette and seemed pleased with the overall look of them. Larsen’s fabrics have been shown at the Louvre, Chicago Sears Tower and been purchased by Hollywood’s elite. He’s worked in 90 countries and has friends on 100 cities.

What’s old is new again (fire station, chief forbes)

Summer brought to the table two notable items centered around the Bremerton City Council. One measure found success while the other failed miserably. The question of reducing the number of city councilors from nine to seven was answered with a resounding no. Councilmen Mike Short and Will Maupin wrote a proposal they wanted sent to voters.

“We are somewhat top heavy on the city council. There are some efficiencies to be gained,” Short said.

The idea to reduce its numbers was originally raised in February and received little support from the council then.

Instead of being put on the ballot, the council voted to appoint a citizen’s committee to study the effects of a reduction. That information was supposed to be brought to the council by Dec. 1.

Beginning Aug. 1 the Bremerton City Council saw an increase in their paychecks from $750 a month to $1,000 or $12,000 a year. City Council president receives an additional $150 a month or $1,800 a year. This thanks to the three-member citizen’s commission appointed to re-evaluate council salaries. The increase was proposed by Jim Reed, the commission’s chairman after his initial proposal for a 67 percent raise failed. Reed and Dena Swisher voted in favor of the 33 percent increase while Doug Wakefield voted against it. Several citizens opposed a pay increase.

“You have to take into consideration they will have to take time off work,” Swisher said.

The city’s police force underwent a change of command as its chief Rob Forbes retired after 25 years with the Bremerton Police Department.

“There’s things that I’d like to do other than law enforcement,” Forbes said before a public ceremony, which was Sept. 30. “I came to the conclusion after 25 years, I would like to step back and evaluate what options are on the horizon.”

In addition to his dedication to law enforcement, Forbes served on the Kitsap United Way board of directors and with the YMCA of Kitsap County.

Capt. Craig Rogers was promoted to interim chief, then became chief in December.

The old Fire Station No. 1 had a bit of an identity crisis as it went from an old fire station, to a museum, to a brew pub in a matter of weeks. Officials from the Fire Museum of the Northwest breathed a sigh of relief thinking they finally had a permanent place to house their artifacts.

The city council voted 5-3, with Mike Short, Will Maupin and Wendy Priest opposing, to sell the New Deal era-built art-deco building to the Port of Bremerton, who planned to lease the space to the museum.

The port’s attorney later recommended the port pull its offer because it was illegal.

Elie Benaron of Los Angeles later agreed to purchase the fire station for his original offer and has plans to covert it into a Benaron a pub style restaurant. The deal was expected to close by the end of the year.

Bremerton rolls out the red carpet (garage, katrina)

For more than 31 years the USS Camden (AOE 2) has called Bremerton its homeport from which it has deployed to provide the beans, bullets and oil to the fleet. On Thursday, Sept. 29, the fast combat support ship was decommissioned at Pier Delta at Naval Base Kitsap at Bremerton ending 38 years of naval service.

More than 300 people attended the pierside ceremony.

“Today we are not only going to honor the decommissioning of the USS Camden, but we are going to honor 88 years of continuous service of the Combat Logistics Force of U.S. Navy commissioned ships. Today we close the door as USS Camden represents the last of the Navy ships to turn that mission over to the Military Sealift Command,” said Capt. Kenneth Norton the ship’s current commanding officer.

Camden was the second of four Sacramento class ships to be built after Navy officials determined in 1952, the need for ships that were fast and that could deliver three products all at once to the emerging fleet of newer and faster aircraft carriers being built.

While Bremerton bid a fond farewell to the Camden, it welcomed several families in the wake of the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita that hit New Orleans with a one, two punch.

The Ussin family was among the first to arrive after a long journey from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

After leaving their New Orleans home a day before Hurricane Katrina slammed the city, the Ussins made the long drive to Tuscaloosa, which normally takes less than five hours, in 15 hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic in the humid Deep South. Despite living in cramped quarters with 26 other people, the four women were grateful to have a friend in the city that is home to the University of Alabama.

“We stayed with a friend because we couldn’t get a hotel room,” said Rose Winters, who traveled with her mother, Pearl Ussin and sisters Barbara and Verna Ussin. “She was a blessing. We had 10 kids and 20 adults all in the same house.”

Pearl’s son, Floyd Ussin, has lived in Bremerton the past 20 years after finishing his career in the Navy. Ussin and his wife, Toni, greeted his sisters and mother when their flight from Houston arrived in SeaTac. Churches and agencies worked together for the “One Church, One Family” initiative will help guide the Ussins through the process of getting a place to live and otherwise settling in.

In the November general election Bremerton School Board incumbents DeWayne Boyd and Cynthia Galloway prevailed over newcomers. Mayor Cary Bozeman, councilors Brad Gehring, Mike Shepherd and Carol Arends we all re-elected to office unopposed. Newcomers Adam Brockus and John Ales battled over Manette for Daren Nygren’s soon-to-be vacated seat. Brockus won the contest. Nick Wofford ran uopposed and will replace Mike Short in District 9.

The Bremerton City Council began more merger talks, this time with Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue on whether to merge the two departments.

A six-month feasibility study with Emergency Services Consulting inc. (ESCi) began in earnest this month as talks turned to action.

“I’d like to see it happen. I think it will save us some money,” said Councilor Cecil McConnell of a merger.

ESCi is a consulting service to public safety agencies throughout the United States and Canada and will determine if a merging of the two entities is mutually beneficial.

“(A merger is) cost effective. It gets more people on the street and is less overhead,” Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke.

The consultants will not only look at the pros and cons of a possible merger, but also will study the benefits of the two departments maybe not neccessarily merging, but still consolidating at a smaller level.

Both CKFR and BFD are splitting the cost of the study which will total $35,000 plus the cost of reasonable expenses that is not to exceed more than $2,400. About $20,000 has been set aside in the city’s proposed 2006 budget to fund the study.

With the Navy’s and city’s officials watching, the Navy parking garage at Fourth Street and Park Avenue opened for business. Boasting about 1,000 spaces, the facility replaces the same amount that were eliminated within Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) as a security measure following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks more than four years ago.

“Everybody won on this project. It wasn’t easy, but everybody won,” Mayor Cary Bozeman said. “It’s a monument to people working together. It took all of us working together to pull this together. It shows what we can do when we work together on something.”

The project initially slated to cost slightly less than $10.8 million came in at $12 million when all was said and done, according to Lt. Cmdr. John Daniels, public affairs officer for Navy Region Nothwest.

The garage covers about 1.8 acres of property where a Payless drugstore, the Bremerton Antiques Gallery and the Olympic College continuing education center once stood.

The parking relief will be in full effect by the end of January as the Navy is phasing in parking permits for the facility 200 at a time.

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